It is now the time to break out those white shoes

May 28, 2011

The fat lady is about to take the mike, and as we all know, it is not over until she sings. That signifies that the Memorial Day weekend is upon us and the fat lady in a resort area like ours has quite a set of pipes.

Sure we recognize this holiday as a very special time to honor those who have died in the service of their country. That is paramount on our list - right up there at the top and deservedly so, with all the tributes, flags, parades and picnics to show our gratitude.

Basically what that means for women my age though is the fashion statement we’ve all pledged allegiance to all our lives: we now can wear white shoes.

Today’s youth can’t appreciate the significance of the golden rule that white shoes are never to be worn until Memorial Day and never to be worn after the Labor Day holiday either. Women have been shunned and whispered about for years simply because they have broken this credo.

I had an aunt whose worth in society plummeted because of a little strapless sandal that she happened to wear because it was a hot indian summer day in the month of October and she was running late for an afternoon party. Unfortunately, the sandal was the unspeakable color of white. I mean it was the shade of a bottle of unpasteurized milk. Very few invitations followed after that; she would have been better off if she simply joined a convent and grew vegetables and tended sheep for the rest of her life.

Young girls today get their fashion sense from more sophisticated outlets like models whose figures are the size of peppermint wafers or rock stars who look like abstract paintings found at most big city museums of modern art. Sure most of these fashion styles don’t last long, not because the audience is fickle; mostly the models disappear due to a lot of accidents, like falling through cracks in the sidewalks or sewer grates. Hey, modeling can be very dangerous now a day.

No one seems to know the exact origin of this rule regarding wearing white before and after a holiday. Some have attributed it to being practical about the weather conditions; that it is simply too cool any time before the end of May to wear a fabric that doesn’t block the weather. Others feel it started when the middle class gained in stature and associated it with what upper class people wore to afternoon teas and any event with Palm Beach in the title.

Personally, I think maybe it was more political. A certain group of women, well let’s face it, any group of women my mother’s age, had to have rules to enforce. They never had to justify these arbitrary edicts either. There were threats like, “Don’t sit too close to the television or you will go blind.” Or my favorite “Put down that stick or you will poke someone’s eye out.” Yes that was just what I intended to do was poke someone’s eye out.  Darn!

The rule about wearing white seemed to be the easiest; it was so bizarre most of us never challenged it, not wanting to show our ignorance as to why this was gospel. Although I have to admit why we took advice in this area from someone who wore rollers in their hair 24/7 is beyond me.

But this did mollify most of our mothers, at least until they retired to Arizona or Florida and could join associations where they don’t allow barbecue grills on the patios of high rises of over 10,000 residents.

Personally, I like white shoes. They make me feel like Carol Burnett and her character Eunice. So white it is, now and forever. As far as rules about attire go, that ship has sailed.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.